Curry : Manny/Miggy Swap Unlikely

Posted in Baseball at 2:55 am by

From the New York Times’ Jack Curry.

As much as the Red Sox would love to include Manny Ramirez in a trade for Miguel Tejada, the Orioles are unlikely to be interested in moving their marquee player for a player Boston is trying to unload.

Tejada (above) is owed $48 million and Ramirez has $57 million left on his contract, but the large salaries do not translate into a possible exchange that would be equally appealing to Baltimore.

Duquette was working with the Mets last summer when they nearly acquired Ramirez for Mike Cameron, Lastings Milledge – their prized prospect – and another prospect, with the Red Sox picking up about a fourth of Ramirez’s salary.

That package is not nearly as impressive as Tejada, who batted .304 with 26 homers and 98 runs batted in last season. In addition, Ramirez must approve any deal.

While Boston could offer the minor league infielder Andy Marte or pitching prospects like Craig Hansen and Jonathan Papelbon, Duquette said the Orioles were committed to trying to win the American League East in 2006.

Duquette said the Orioles, who signed the free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez this week, believe they can be competitive in the strong division if they make a few more moves. Trading Tejada to a division rival would damage Baltimore’s hopes.

(postscript : according to the Washington Post’s Jorge Arangue Jr., there is actual discussion of such a deal within the Orioles offices. Peter Angelos, obviously hoping that Boston will eat some of Manny’s salary is quoted as saying “”I’d find it difficult to justify a $20 million salary per year for anybody. The economics of the game don’t support that type of salary for any player.” Considering that Tejada is making $15 million per year, this is an interesting comment. Is Manny worth $5 million more a year than Miggy? Or is Miggy a relative bargain at $15 million compared to Manny?)


Pirates Sign Hernandez

Posted in Baseball at 6:05 pm by

Reliever Roberto Hernandez (above) has signed a one year deal with Pittsburgh.

Hernandez performed capably for the Mets in a setup role for portions of 2005. Of course, there were other portions where he got hammered. Assuming the Pirates aren’t compelled to send him to the mound 60 or more times, Hernandez might have enough in the tank to justify the signing. Presumably, Aaron Heilman will be filling the same role in Flushing next season.

The A’s have signed P Jason Karnuth (most recently of Detroit) and IF Scott McClain (most recently of the Cubs’ Triple A affiliate in Iowa) to minor league contracts.

Minnesota has swapped lefty J.C. Romero to the Angels in exchange for infielder Alexi Casilla.

The Unlikely Return Of Jonah Lomu

Posted in Rugby at 5:21 pm by

What would the reaction be if Barry Sanders came out of retirement to play for a club in the AFL2? Or even worse, if Emmitt Smith put on a Cardinals uniform. Imagine either scenario, if you will, while trying to absorb the tale of New Zealand rugby union dynamo Jonah Lomu turning out for Cardiff Blues. From The Independent’s Chris Hewitt.

Jonah Lomu has played bigger teams than Ghial Rugby Calvisano in the course of his astonishing union career; indeed, in terms of acreage, he is probably bigger than Calvisano itself. It is to be confidently expected, therefore, that the unusually substantial New Zealander will put one or two tries past the underpowered Italians when he makes his debut for Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup tie at the Centro Sportivo San Michele tomorrow.

Lomu (above) has been on Cardiff’s books for only a few weeks, having pitched up from All Black country last month, and it is fair to say that there are those who continue to see his signing as a publicity stunt of the most blatant kind. He has not played a full game of rugby since undergoing kidney transplant surgery last year and, despite personal assurances to the contrary, the sceptics assume that two current accounts – one belonging to the club, the other to the player himself – will benefit rather more from his unlikely sojourn in South Wales than the long-suffering paying public at the Arms Park.

There is, however, no denying that the Big Bloke is willing to give it his best shot. Yesterday the Blues named Lomu in their starting line-up for the immediate business down Brescia way, and if he survives a reasonable chunk of the 80 minutes ahead of him he will present himself before the home supporters when the Italians pay their return visit to Cardiff a week tomorrow. Jolly Jonah twice in seven days? It is enough to make their underdogs wonder whether they might have been better off sticking with football.

Let’s Dress Up Like Cops, Think Of What We Could Do : Shaq’s Annoying Sideline

Posted in Basketball, The Law at 5:07 pm by

(do you solemnly swear to play before the All-Star break?)

Given that his vigilante activities have already shown him to be a force for good rather than evil, it seems a little petty to knock Shaquille O’Neal for his obsession with cops.

Other celebrated public figures have been similarly fixated —Elvis Presley, Michael Gira —however, neither would’ve require a specially fitted police cruiser. There’s also the question of whether or not Shaq — even with the assistance of Geraldo Rivera’s finest makeup artists — could ever go undercover.

World Cup Draw – Clear Sailing For England, Early Exit For U.S.

Posted in Football at 4:53 pm by

The draw for Germany 2006 took place earlier today, and it’s funny how this seeding business rewards certain nations at the expense of others. England — recent losers to Northern Ireland (!) should have a relatively easy path to the round of 16 having been grouped with Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago and Paraguay.

(man with futuristic microphone announces Australia’s impending defeats to Brazil and Croatia).

The United States — who qualified earlier than ever this time and narrowly missed a quarterfinals appearance in 2002, have been given the death sentence of matches with Italy and the Czech Republic. Perhaps by the time Freddy Adu is ready to take on a prominent role in the national side, the U.S. will get a favorable draw — though I wouldn’t bet on it. (Adu story link courtesy Jay Strell).

All complaints aside, afternoons next June will be hi-def tastic and the only thing I’m looking forward to more than the actual competition is counting how many times Will Leitch calls upon an anonymous “soccer expert” for generic analysis.

Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe fit to be tied over Portsmouth’s alleged tampering that led to Harry Redknapp walking out on the Saints. The former was quoted by the Independent’s Jason Burt as saying “we do not believe this episode has been conducted within the rules of the game,”.

Responded Pompey chieftan Milan Mandarich, “I don’t what game he is talking about. Is it hockey or rugby?”

Southampton director Andrew Cowan points out there’s been a tremendous amount of money (the sum of £16million has been bandied about) wagered on Redknapp returning to Fratton Park. Is there any CCTV footage of Mandarich leaving a local betting shop?

A Friday AM Dose Of The Klap

Posted in Baseball at 11:35 am by

The Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch is amongst those fairly certain the Yankees will be making a run at newly available Roger Clemens.

The Boss can – and will – court The Rocket with money (anything you want, Rocket), by playing on his vanity (we’ve never really replaced you, Rocket), and his legacy (can the Astros really take you back to the World Series?). All this unfolded Wednesday night, when Houston owner Drayton McLane severed his ties with Clemens. By not offering the right-hander arbitration, the Astros are now back burnered until May 1, and while a majority of baseball insiders think Clemens will still end up in Houston, the four-month-plus window gives Steinbrenner a chance to fill three needs at once.

First, Clemens would give the Yankees’ rotation an immediate upgrade and allow them to send Carl Pavano packing. Despite general manager Brian Cashman’s insistence that Pavano is an integral part of the Bombers’ machinery in 2006, the unhappy pitcher’s attitude continues to be a problem.

A.J. Burnett said this week that Pavano is “miserable” pitching in New York, and has told a number of friends – including Burnett, his former teammate in Florida – he wants to be traded. Clemens’ presence would make Pavano expendable, assuming someone would actually pay $10 million for an injured sinkerballer with diminished velocity.

If Cashman can pull off a deal for Pavano, he deserves early consideration for Executive of the Year. But the Yankees clearly need a pitching response to the Red Sox and Blue Jays, both of whom are now stronger at the front of the rotation.

Unlike the Yankees, the Astros don’t have $15 million to $20 million to hold in reserve while Clemens weighs his option. That money has to be budgeted and spent in the next two months. Conversely, the Bombers are flush with cash, always their most potent weapon.

In this case, money is no object, considering the Yankees are projecting a 2006 budget that’s at least $20 million lighter than in ’05 (assuming they don’t sign Damon). Writing a last-minute check won’t cause Steinbrenner any financial pain.

It might even be the smartest cash withdrawal he’s ever made.

After having outbid San Diego for the services of Trevor Hoffman (and lost), the Indians have gone back to their most recent closer/fashion plate, Bob Wickman (above), retaining the big leagues’ most handsome man.

The Orioles are supposedly close to signing Jeff Conine. When David Sloane accused the Marlins of trying to field Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and the 7 dwarfs, he wasn’t far off.

Vorva : D-Train, Deja Vu?

Posted in Baseball at 11:22 am by

Reminding Cubs fans that it was only 3 years ago that the Cubs included Dontrelle Willis in a package for Matt Clement and Antonio Afonesca, he Daily Southtown’s Jeff Vorva questions the price of Juan Pierre. t

Now that the Cubs have given up three more young pitchers ” Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto ” to the Marlins for speedy center fielder Juan Pierre, could history repeat?

In the estimation of Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, the risk was worth it.

“That (Willis deal) doesn’t cross my mind,” Hendry said. “This guy (Pierre) is in the upper echelon of leadoff hitters in baseball. He’s a quality human being. A speed guy. A center fielder. He’s what you’re looking for in an area where we have obviously not been as good as we needed to be.

“You would have to be naive to think we would not be hit hard to get a guy like that.”

Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita said he hated to see the three pitchers go. Whenever a team trades young players it runs the risk of losing someone who could become a star in the majors.

“It’s bound to happen,” Fleita said. “When you get a quality player, you are certainly going to give up quality players. Right now this is a huge need for our ballclub. It’s not a one-sided trade. It’s a two-sided trade.

Another way of looking at it is that if Mitre, Nolasco and Pinto do indeed emerge as stars, they’ll probably become available in a future Jeffrey Loria salary dump.

Commish Fesses Up : Fans Are Sheep

Posted in Basketball at 11:12 am by

From the Indianapolis Star :

Commissioner David Stern, responding to a question posed during an ESPN online chat, said he’s no fan of teams blaring music or sound effects while the game is being played.

“We’re trying to find a few games to experiment with for teams to give us a ‘silent night’ so to speak,” Stern wrote to the questioner, identified only as JC from Boston.

Stern declined to elaborate on the noise-free plan, saying in an e-mail after the chat that he isn’t ready to “give up the details yet.”

During the chat, conducted Thursday, the questioner wrote, “If home fans can’t get pumped up and make noise on their own, then there is something really wrong with your league. The game should be the entertainment and able to stand up alone without canned music.”

Stern responded, “I agree with you. Unfortunately, most of our teams don’t and think that the fans like the entertainment.”

I can only hope that the Commissioner’s secret plan will extend to the D-League, where the Austin Toros’ deafening selections include the old theme music from “The NBA On NBC”, CBS’ “Road To The Final Four” and hardest of all to fathom, a “SportsCenter” jingle circa 1988.

Mets – Moving Matsui, Hiring Radio Mouthpiece

Posted in Baseball, Sports Radio at 9:22 am by

The New York Daily News’ Adam Rubin on the Mets’ continued efforts to deal 2B Kaz Matsui :

Trading Kaz Matsui (above) remains an uphill battle, with the Mets’ best chance possibly Tampa Bay. But the Devil Rays will have to trade Julio Lugo first, so Tampa Bay getting cut out of the Boston-Atlanta deal that made Edgar Renteria a Brave didn’t help. Insiders say the Mets start negotiations by expressing a willingness to pick up half of the $8 million owed to Matsui in 2006.

With Valentin as a hedge at second (his salary bumps by as much as $500,000 if he gets between 300 and 500 plate appearances), the Mets may be resigned to keeping Matsui.

There’s been a small amount of yack radio chatter overnight about reliever Roberto Hernandez — whom the Mets neglected to offer salary arbitration — ending up with the Yankees. In addition to the Bombers’ signing of former Red Sox reliver Mike Myers, the Daily News’ Sam Borden reports the Yankees are speaking with Nomar Garciaparra about a utility role.

The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand writes that Marlins voice Jon Sciambi has rebuffed the Mets’ overture and instead, the club will tap Jersey City native Tom McCarthy (above) as their new play-by-play announcer on WFAN.

Orioles SS Miguel Tejada has said he wants out of Baltimore, claming “the Orioles have not made any signings to strengthen the club.” I suppose he was underwhelmed by the trade for LaTroy Hawkins, if not the free agent signing of Ramon Hernandez. Though it doesn’t seem to me like this is anything a round of B12 shots couldn’t fix, Tejada is clearly not looking forward to finishing 4th next year. Though it is hard to imagine the Orioles trading a player of Tejada’s caliber within their division, Boston would certainly be interested (and Manny Ramirez could turn out to be Peter Angelos’ most glittering acquisition since Albert Belle).

Sociologist Dr. Phil (Self-Appointed) On The Thug Life

Posted in Sports Journalism at 8:59 am by

From Phil Mushnick in today’s NY Post.

How long before we learn that a young pro, an NBA or NFL player, a kid suddenly being paid millions, has been the sustained victim of a gang shakedown, that’s he’s paying “tribute,” extortion money, “life insurance” or “family life insurance” to his neighborhood’s hoods?

It’s likely already happening simply because it has to be. America’s mean streets have never been meaner. And those neighborhoods are among the nation’s leaders in producing superior athletes. Do the street math.

Consider that in just one day this week, the Knicks signed Qyntel Woods, a 24-year-old pro from mean-streets Memphis with an arrest record for everything from drugs to animal abuse, and lost Quentin Richardson, who returned to mean-streets Chicago to mourn his brother, a murder victim, the second brother Richardson lost to a shooting.

And these kinds of stories have become so commonplace, we’ve become inured to them. Just another drive-by day.

How long before we learn that a sports agent is hooked up with a street gang? How long before we learn that 20 percent of a player’s paycheck is being kicked back to the head of a gang’s regional chapter? How long before we learn that, like with any crime family, you just don’t decide to walk away, especially when you’re suddenly making huge dough?

I’m not saying that Mushnick that any kind of problem with young black men getting paid or anything, but it is telling that he cites the NBA and NFL but totally ignores the history of NHL players being extorted by organized crime.

The Fiver Chronicles Manchester United’s Champions League Misadventure

Posted in Football at 1:45 am by

From the Guardian’s Barry Glendenning and Sean Ingle.

Shortly before the cloven-hoofed, red-eyed, forked-tongued, scaly-skinned devil-yanks that are the Glazers set up shop in the Trafford DevilDome, Shareholders United chairman Nick Towle confidently predicted that their arrival would prompt 20,000 Rowdies fans to boycott matches and merchandise, costing the club and its sponsors £18.5m per year. “The rate they are going, the only people inside Old Trafford will be Japanese tourists,” declared Towle with stunning inaccuracy, for with Rowdies ticket and tat sales as brisk as ever seven months down the line, it was left to the Rowdies players to tear a £15m-shaped hole in the Glazer’s finances, by crashing out of Europe before Christmas.

But if this pinnacle of underachievement upset the Glazers they’re hiding it well. “There is no getting away from the fact that last night was a disappointing result in sporting terms, but it does not represent a blow to the family or the family’s finances because they are long-term investors in the MU Rowdies,” announced their spokesman this morning. “If you lose a game you pick yourself up, brush yourself off and prepare for the next game.”

It’s a message of peace, love and understanding Cristiano Ronaldo (above) would do well to take on board. Having played like a sickly child who’d been given the opportunity to line out for the Rowdies by the Make-A-Wish foundation, the young Portugeezer reacted to defeat by giving ecstatic Benfica fans the finger. “There was nothing to justify the way the crowd treated me,” whined the man the Rowdies bought from Benfica’s arch-rivals Sporting Lisbon, as he packed his ball away and stormed home to tell his mum.


Queen Of Mean Raises The Roof At UConn

Posted in Basketball, politics at 10:39 pm by

Says Brushback,

I guess Ann Coulter (above) can now be placed side-by-side with The Ultimate Warrior (who also caused a near-riot while giving a speech at UConn).

From the Hartford Courant’s Grace E. Merritt

Music that seemed to come from somewhere in the raucous audience that packed the Jorgensen Center at the University of Connecticut Wednesday night brought Ann Coulter’s speech to an abrupt end about 15 minutes after she started.

After waiting with her bodyguard on stage for several minutes for the music to stop while a section of the audience chanted “You suck, you suck,” an irritated Coulter said she would not finish her speech. She said she would go straight to questions and answers, suggesting the disruption was the best the liberals could do to counter her.

“I love to engage in repartee with people that are a lot stupider than I am,” she said. `We’re having a question and answer right now with the little crybabies.”

Responding to a question about withdrawing troops in Iraq, Coulter pointed out the United States still has troops in Bosnia and said various aspects of life are improving in Iraq, with elections being held, women voting and the insurgency growing smaller.

One student asked what she would do if she had a child who came out as gay.

Coulter replied: “I’d say, `Did I ever tell you you’re adopted?’”

She also aimed plenty of criticism at the Democratic Party, calling U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California a great candidate for Democrats because “she is a woman and learning disabled.” She also aimed barbs at Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

“If the Democrats want to stick to the middle of the road, why did they pick Ted Kennedy. Didn’t he have some trouble sticking to the middle of the road?” she said.

This wasn’t a completely lousy week for UConn, however, as the no. 3 Huskies defeated UMass 78-60 earlier tonight in Hartford. Raushaun Freeman scored 19 as Connecticut extended their record to 6-0.

Mets Sign Valentin

Posted in Baseball at 5:57 pm by

The Mets’ insurance policy against Jose Reyes suffering another hamstring injury is apparently veteran SS Jose Valentin, signed today to a one year, guaranteed major league contract.

Valentin, 36, hit .170 in limited action for Los Angeles last year. It’s not every day the Mets manage to sign two free agents with a combined age of 2036.

The Winning Personality Of Herm Edwards

Posted in Gridiron at 5:53 pm by

Though I wish no ill will on Jets head coach Herm Edwards, there’s something to be said for the way a 2-10 season spices up his press conferences. From Newsday’s Ken Berger.

In the course of answering innocuous questions about the sentimental quest to get Curtis Martin 1,000 yards for the 11th consecutive season, Edwards lamented having been criticized for calling a draw play on third-and-5 from the Patriots’ 19 with 1:13 left in the second quarter.

Martin was stopped for no gain, and the Jets settled for a field goal that tied the game at 3. It was the closest the offense got to the end zone all day in a 16-3 loss.

“I get questioned for third-and-five running the draw, trying to tie the game up before the half,” Edwards (above) said. ” ‘Why didn’t you throw?’ The Patriots had a third-and-four on the 27-yard line. They ran a draw, missed a field goal. No one questioned them. But I get questioned because we lost. I understand that.

“It’s part of the process of being the head coach,” Edwards continued.

“That’s OK. But the same scenario, they’re on the 27-yard line, they missed a [45-yard] field goal. How about that?”

With that, Edwards shuffled his notes, tapped them against the lectern, and said, “Press conference over.”

It was strange stuff, considering Edwards had not even been asked about the third-down draw play since the postgame news conference Sunday. (What was the point? The season’s over.) Just chalk it up to the mounting burden of a lost season.

“When you’re in this situation, it’s easy to go, ‘You know what? It doesn’t matter,’ ” Edwards said. “It matters. It matters even more now to me.”

Asked if he’s considering trying anything new offensively, Edwards frighteningly invoked a variation of Rich Kotite’s “no cookbook answers” line.

“There’s no magical potion here,” he said. “We have to play this way, OK? There’s no other way to play for us right now. I think everyone’s missing that. We act like every week there’s something going to be different. What’s going to be different? The difference is, we’ve got to score some points. We’ve got to find a way to put points on the board.

Public Relations, Jeffrey Loria-Style

Posted in Baseball at 5:06 pm by

It’s Double A baseball at Major League prices in Miami, writes the Herald’s Barry Jackson.

If you are a Marlins season-ticket holder irate over the team’s latest dismantling, which likely concluded with Wednesday’s trade of Juan Pierre to the Cubs, you can call talk radio and spew invective, you can tear up your poster of the 2003 World Champions, you can even stick pins in a Billy the Marlin doll.

What you can’t do is get your money back.

The team said this week it will not grant refunds to season-ticket holders — a position that put already fuming fans in an even fouler mood.

The Marlins also won’t reverse an earlier decision to raise single-game ticket prices for next season. (Prices will be announced soon.) Season-ticket prices also have increased for some seats.

Detroit has signed P Kenny Rogers to a two-year, $16 million contract.

Catcher Ramon Hernandez, most recently of San Diego, has reached terms with Baltimore on a four year, $27.5 million pact.

Art Thiel Pisses Himself Laughing

Posted in Basketball at 2:29 pm by

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Art Thiel on the unprecedented way the Sonics’ Reggie Evans found himself indisposed the other night.

My least favorite sports drug-test story was Tuesday at the Sonics-Knicks game.

Inexplicably, the unusable young center, Robert Swift, found himself starting the second half following his season debut in the last couple of minutes of the first half, in which he did nothing to counter coach Bob Weiss’ dread of putting him into an NBA game.

The bizarre decision was a minimal factor in the 104-101 loss to the Knicks, except for lending credence to the critics’ notion that Weiss must be mad.

Turns out that he deserved to be angry. Unknown to all at the time, the scheduled starter, Reggie Evans (above), was in a small room in KeyArena complying with the new rules of the NBA’s drug-testing policy.

In the middle of the game, he was peeing into a bottle while Swift was getting dunked on by Jerome James.

Can you imagine seeing Witt interrupted in the middle of a triple-toe loop, her music unplugged and being told, “Follow me, miss, behind this screen”? And, “This Bud’s for you.”

Embarrassed, the NBA Wednesday issued a statement saying the policy will be amended to preclude testing during the game.

That was a relief to those of us who figured the next attempt to collect from The Collector would be in mid-rebound, pulling down his shorts with one hand and shoving a Buckhorn six-pack at him with the other.

Make no mistake: I’m all for getting drugs out of sports. I’m all for clean bathrooms at home too, but I try not to scrub the toilet while guests are using it.

Mets Woo Two Thousand Year Old Man

Posted in Baseball at 2:12 pm by

The omnipresent Ken Rosenthal of the Sporting News is reporting the Mets are on the verge of signing 1B Julio Franco.

Franco is expected to back up Carlos Delgado at first base and serve as a pinch-hitter off the bench. His deal also could include a position with the club when his playing career is over.

Franco has a past relationship with Mets general manager Omar Minaya and special assistant Sandy Johnson, both of whom were with Texas when Franco played for the Rangers from 1989 to ’93.

Overly Litigious DDP Vs. Jigga

Posted in Hip Hop, Professional Wrestling at 1:35 pm by

From the New York Post’s Richard Johnson (link courtesy Jon Solomon) :

Jay-Z is being sued by former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, who claims the hip-hop heavy stole his trademark “Diamond Cutter” hand gesture. The suit, filed in L.A. federal court, accuses Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records of copyright infringement and misappropriation of a hand signal, mtv.com reports. Page wants an injunction to prevent Jay-Z from using the gesture ” which involves touching the index fingers and thumbs so they form a diamond shape. Page’s lawyer says the wrestler can be seen flashing the “Cutter” on video since the mid-’90s.

Presumably, Sean Carter is also prevented from employing the Self-High Five.

Boston, Atlanta Swap Rentieria, Marte

Posted in Baseball at 11:06 am by

With Tampa and Julio Lugo removed from the equation, the Braves have acquired SS Edgar Renteria from the Red Sox in exchange for Andy Marte (above).

With Mike Lowell, Marte and Kevin Youklis all on the Boston roster, you’ve got to figure that Youklis is the odd man out, unless there’s a plan to convert Marte to a shortstop.

WFAN’s Joe Benigno-Gazingo reports that the Yankees are sending Tony Womack to the Reds. No word yet on who New York is getting back, but an autographed photo of Tom Sizemore might be enough.

The Pirates have released Ty Wigginton. If you’re like me, you weren’t even aware he was being held captive.

Colorado has signed Jose Mesa. Long after roaches and rats are extinct and the “Today” show has relinquished its ratings lead, Señor Smoke will still find work.

Lennon Lives, Tips Benson To Texas

Posted in Baseball at 10:30 am by

From Newsday’s David Lennon :

Omar Minaya’s top priority was trading Kris Benson, and the Mets were moving closer to that goal yesterday with the Rangers after talks with the Royals broke down Tuesday night.

A baseball official with knowledge of the discussions said the most recent proposal involved sending Benson to the Rangers for outfielder Laynce Nix and righthander Juan Dominguez.

Ideally, Minaya would like to clear Benson’s salary in order to make other moves, with an eye toward acquiring the Athletics’ Zito or the Diamondbacks’ Javier Vazquez.

With Brian Giles and Juan Pierre no longer available, and Johnny Damon presumably priced beyond the means of a financially struggling franchise, the Daily News’ Sam Borden writes that Bernie Williams will be returning to the Yankees.

Soriano To Nats

Posted in Baseball at 6:34 am by

Though we can probably expect his power numbers to dip playing 81 games at RFK, the addition of Alfonso gives the ownerless Nationals their most potent offense weapon. From the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant.

The Rangers moved to reshape their lineup late Wednesday night by sending Alfonso Soriano (above) to the Washington Nationals in a four-player trade still contingent upon physicals.

But if this trade is to impact the pitching staff, it likely won’t be felt in 2006.

The Rangers will acquire center fielder Brad Wilkerson, a far more discerning hitter than Soriano, outfielder Terrmel Sledge and starting pitching prospect Armando Galarraga.

Wilkerson, who turns 29 next June, makes trading an outfielder “ either Kevin Mench or Laynce Nix “ more feasible. It may also save the Rangers some cash, since Wikerson, an arbitration-eligible player represented by Scott Boras, is expected to make about $5 million. That’s about half of what Soriano was expected to receive in arbitration.

The move also opens the possibility that prospect Ian Kinsler could move into the Rangers’ lineup at second base in 2006.

Wilkerson is only a career .256 hitter but has taken at least 80 walks in each of the last three seasons and has an attractive .365 career on-base percentage. The left-handed hitter could slide into the leadoff spot, which is where he hit for most of last season with Washington.

Wilkerson is coming off a subpar year. He hit a career-best 32 homers in 2004, but fell to just 11 in 2005. Some of that may have been due to the Nationals’ move from Montreal to a more pitcher-friendly stadium in Washington.

Sledge, who turns 29 in March, hit 15 homers as a rookie in 2004 but was limited to just 20 games last year by hamstring problems. He also tested positive for steroids in 2003 while trying out for the U.S. Olympic baseball team. He was suspended for two years from international competition.

The lone pitching acquisition is Galarraga, a skinny (6-4, 170 pounds) right-hander from Venezuela who turns 24 in January. Baseball America magazine ranked him as the fifth-best prospect in the Nationals’ organization last season and the seventh-best in the Class A Carolina League. He split the season between Potomac in the Carolina League and Double-A Harrisburg. He was 3-4 with both teams but had a 2.48 ERA in Class A, 5.19 in Double-A.

Blue Jays Trade For Overbay

Posted in Baseball at 2:21 am by

Clearly, it’s a new era in Toronto, one in which the current ownership group won’t be satisfied with finishing 3rd. Just call it Flushing North.

From the Associated Press.

The Toronto Blue Jays turned their attention to offence on Wednesday night, acquiring first baseman Lyle Overbay (above) from the Milwaukee Brewers for right-hander Dave Bush, outfield prospect Gabe Gross and a player to be named.

Overbay, a left-handed hitter who is eligible for arbitration, batted .276 with 19 homers and 72 RBIs this year. His departure clears the way for top prospect Prince Fielder to take over at first base in Milwaukee.

The Blue Jays are also expected to get left-handed pitching prospect Zach Jackson, but he can’t be included in the deal until after Thursday’s winter meeting draft. Jackson, the 32nd pick overall out of Texas A&M in the 2004 amateur draft, moved through three levels of the minors and had a combined 16-8 record with a 3.92 ERA.


SWellls : Enough With The Hooligan Jokes

Posted in Sports Journalism at 10:59 pm by

Former NME scribe Steven Wells continues to celebrate his exile in Philadelphia with another in a series of articles for the Guardian about American sport. On Wednesday, the author of “Teenage Tits Out Terror Totty” came out swinging against the tired characterization of soccer matches as riots waiting to happen, while the thuggish excesses of Eagles and Flyers fans carry no similar stigma.

There’s not much soul-searching about sports hooliganism within the US – and what little there is tends to focus on the behaviour of African-American basketball players rather than predominantly white football fans. For no matter how many college games end in drunken mob violence (as many do), no matter how many American city centres see running battles between sports fans and riot police, the US sports media continues to present hooliganism as something utterly un-American. (This blinkered provincialism has parallels with the 1996 decision by the US State Department to “red flag” parts of south London as no-go areas for American tourists, claiming that Millwall was as dangerous as Guatemala – which, at the time, was overrun by right-wing death squads.)

When it comes to hooliganism, the US media really is the pot calling the kettle black. Riots at US sports events occur far more frequently than they do in the UK. And yet, in American popular culture, the “hooligan” is almost without exception portrayed as a soccer fan (and nearly always as English).

Which might explain the success in the US of the movie Green Street. This, as I’m sure you know, is the story of how American Frodo Baggins is taught how to beat up idiots by a Brad Pitt lookalike West Ham hoolie with the worst cockney accent since Sir John Gielgud played Arthur Mullard in the Young Vic’s disastrous 1991 stage adaptation of Yus My Dear. The US reviews of Green Street read like anthropological essays – discussions of a curious and disturbing phenomenon so utterly alien to the American way of life that it can only be understood as a quirky custom pursued by distant barbarians.there’s no national debate about hooliganism in the US press. There’s no discussion about the wisdom of selling alcohol inside stadiums or of letting home and away fans sit together. Nobody in US sports seems to even realise that they’ve got a long-term, deeply rooted and entirely homegrown hooligan problem.

Whenever American football fans riot or ice hockey fans beat the hell out of one another, whenever the supporters of basketball or baseball teams go on a cop-taunting, car-torching, window-smashing victory spree, the violence is invariably treated as a local disturbance or an historical anomaly. And whenever college football fans engage in riotous behaviour that would be considered a national scandal if it happened in Britain (as they frequently do), no one seems terribly inclined to call it hooliganism.

Meanwhile lazy US satirists compare rioting French Islamic youth to soccer hooligans, Bucky the monkey-hating cat in the nationally syndicated Get Fuzzy strip raises a chuckle by dressing up as a Hartlepool FC “English hooligan”, and the Simpsons scriptwriters seem unable to mention soccer without inserting a gag about how the sport turns its supporters into mindless thugs.

The truth is that both Bill Buford and Frodo Baggins could have stayed at home to get their slumming hoolie kicks.

Meantime, I think it’s time for the pot to shut the fuck up.

I can only presume that Wells, writing for an audience disinclined to fact check most of his assertions, is largely unfamiliar with the writing of the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick, a longstanding opponent of uncouth behaviour at this nation’s arenas and stadiums. Likewise, when Wells cites Stephen Colbert dissing soccer fans, the former couldn’t possibly be so dense as to take offense at the latter’s over the top meditation on Bill O’Reilly.

Jones Returns To Tigers, Kolb Returns To Milwaukee

Posted in Baseball at 7:34 pm by

CSTB’s no. 1 literary influence, sexual libertine Todd Jones (above) has signed a two year deal with the Detroit Tigers.

Atlanta has sent reliever Danny Kolb back to the Brewers in exchange for P Wes Obermuller.

The Red Sox have completed a swap of backup C Doug Mirabelli for 2B Mark Loretta. There’s no truth to the rumor that Mirabelli will still be allowed to catch Tim Wakefield every 5 days.

Hoffman Stays In San Diego

Posted in Baseball at 6:25 pm by

Torpedoing an earlier report that he was signing with Cleveland, reliever Trevor Hoffman will remain with the Padres.

Ken Rosenthal (!) says the deal is for two years and $13.5 million, with an optional 3rd year, supposedly far less than Hoffman was offered by Cleveland.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, however, so impressive in the Todd Solondz film “Happiness”, remains unsigned by any big league club.